Preventing Lyme Diseaseon Jul 5, 2013
Imagine being told a spirochete has invaded your brain, tissues and organs, causing irreparable damage. Hard to imagine isn’t it? In fact, we tell ourselves, “That kind of thing happens to the other guy.” If you are a hunter, and you don’t take Lyme disease seriously, you may be at risk. Each time you go outdoors in tick-infested territory you run the risk of a tick-borne infection. Specifically, Lyme disease; often called the Great Imitator because it mimics over 300 other diseases.
Ticks are a common (often hazardous) part of the outdoor/bowhunting experience and they can affect you in a number of unwanted ways.
I can’t begin to count the number of ticks we have removed from persons, clothing and gear over the past 30 years of bowhunting, but it is a lot. We have never encountered the tell-tale circular rash around a bite that indicates infection with Lyme disease, but that is not always a guarantee of safety. An estimated 20% of victims may not have the red-ringed rash known as erythema migrans (EM). Caused by an inflammatory response to the infection, a rash may also appear on an area of the body not associated with the tick bite.
Not all tick bites look like this. In fact, nearly a quarter of tick bite victims have no rash that resembles this.
In speaking with a number of people who were diagnosed with Lyme disease I was surprised to find varied descriptions of symptoms. Although several had similar symptoms, they all described different symptoms. One person had abscessed teeth and gums, while another had terrible knee pain. Early symptoms include fever, fatigue, depression, muscle soreness and headache. These flu-like symptoms may contribute to the initial misdiagnosis. The key to eliminating the localized infection is early diagnosis. With proper antibiotics, the disease can be defeated.
Misdiagnosed Lyme disease is possible as the medical community continues to disagree whether chronic Lyme disease even exists. For those who suffer through months or years of misdiagnosis the consequences can be dangerous. Advanced symptoms may involve the heart, joints and central nervous system. Migrating muscle pain, heart palpitations, dizziness or arthritis-like symptoms may occur. Lyme arthritis can develop, usually affecting the knees. It may also impact ankles, elbows, wrists, hips and shoulders. Pain is often mild or moderate with swelling of the joints.
As symptoms progress they may become disabling, mimicking other diseases like Lupus, Celiac disease, HIV or Lou Gehrig’s disease. One patient I talked to, who had gone misdiagnosed for more than 2 years, was once referred to an infectious disease specialist. The doctor did not believe in chronic Lyme disease. He tested the patient for all of the above diseases. The tests were negative. Still, the doctor wanted to send the patient home with pain killers and medication for depression. Thankfully, the patient consulted other doctors and was finally diagnosed correctly with chronic Lyme disease. He is now undergoing aggressive treatments, but still has an uphill battle to return to normal.